Leadership skills for engaging staff - Valuing Voices

The Valuing Voices - ELIAS Programme combines staff listening with a front line ownership approach to enable services to understand what matters to staff, understand their experience of working in the service and how engaged and valued they feel right now.  Valuing Voices - ELIAS sessions also encourage staff to share their ideas on how to improve services and make changes where possible. This type of engagement has been directly linked to improvements in staff experience and well-being as it connects to the key components of engagement. 

In collaboration with the National Staff Engagement Forum, we have developed A practical toolkit Leadership Skills for Engaging Staff in Improving Quality.  We hope you find this helpful (click on the image below to access).

EMT - Leadership Skills for Engaging Staff in QI (please select to access) 

We believe the Valuing Voices - ELIAS Programme will help identified staff continue to develop their skills to engage with patients and colleagues. 

The objectives of this approach are to:

  •  Engage:  Build leadership capacity to engage staff and enhance teamwork
  •  Listen:  Create opportunities to proactively listen to staff and service users about their experiences and enhance person centred compassionate care
  •  Inspire:  Embrace a positive values based culture by creating joy and meaning in work – continuing to inspire the inspired.
  •  Act:  Encourage staff to Be the Change - using their knowledge, skills and attitudes to creatively design and implement solutions to improve quality.
  •  Share:  Create opportunities for staff to continue to learn and spread successes.

You can do each step individually over a period of weeks, or alternatively you can do the listening and action planning session over the course of a day.  It depends on your service and what is least disruptive.  You can also go to the ward / offices and have conversations with staff there as they go about their work.   

Two examples of this work in action are detailed below

  •  Mercy University Hospital
  •  Cork University Maternity Hospital

Mercy University Hospital – Engagement with Non Consultant Hospital Doctors

‘Work Life, Wellbeing and Efficiency: Valuing Voices Programme - Improving Quality Through Staff Engagement’

In 2017, in partnership with the Quality Improvement Division (QID), the Mercy University Hospital commenced the test of a programme called Valuing Voices - the ELIAS Programme Engage, Listen, Inspire, Act and Share. 

The programme is designed to build leadership capacity by training and mentoring local facilitators to engage staff and enhance teamwork using a combination of staff listening, action planning and Front Line Ownership approaches.  On this occasion the team chose to focus on improving NCHD wellbeing.  We know from international evidence that when staff are given an opportunity to share their ideas for improvement and act on them, that morale improves.  This is in turn linked to improved service user outcomes, mortality and experience.  The programme won the Lead NCHD Award in 2017.

The QID Lead Staff Engagement trained and coached four local facilitators (pictured below left to right) including Dr. Megan Alcock and Victoria Collins, Talent Acquisition Specialist, Fiona Lynch, Medical Manpower Manager and Dr. Mortimer O’Connor, Lead NCHD.  The programme is based on the simple concept of finding out what staff want to improve and working together to make it happen whenever possible.  Fiona Lynch, Medical Manpower Manager said:  “NCHD’s had the opportunity to engage, their voices were heard, listened to and it was a forum for our NCHD’s to make improvements and the hospital to make strides in making their working lives easier”.

Mercy Pic 1


Following the initial training, the team invited NCHDs to attend a listening session where they had an opportunity to share their ideas and suggestions for improvement.  20 NCHDs participated in staff listening sessions with the goal of improving NCHD wellbeing.  They selected four areas of greatest interest to develop and twelve NCHDs participated in a follow up action planning session.  Using a frontline ownership approach, the Lead NCHD and Medical Manpower Manager coached 12 NCHDs to act on themes of

  •  enhancing the on call rota and distribution of work on nights and weekend call so that they were less tired caring and responding to patient needs,
  •  improving the practice around the use of bleeps to minimise interruption at the bedside and reduce personal stress levels, and
  •  improving IT access to computers on the ward so that they could access patient results faster.  

While the focus of the work was to improve NCHD wellbeing, one nursing colleague spoke of “the positive ripple effects” that other staff were experiencing as a result of the programme.  The methodology was well received at both the training for facilitators and the staff listening sessions with staff saying following the listening sessions that: 

Mercy Diagram 1

 “What is one thing you will START doing as a result of this work?” They said:

“Discussing issues with nurses, maybe we could come up with a more efficient way of communicating together”

“Talk about wellbeing more openly with colleagues”

“Engage more with management to change problems”

“Making my suggestions for improvement known”


 “What is one thing you will STOP doing as a result of this work?” They said: 

“Ignoring problems as I’m only temporary” and “Focus on factors uncontrollable”

This feedback is positive as staff have significant potential to make lasting changes in their areas of work.   Dr. Mortimer O’Connor, Lead NCHD said “The power of the people you work with is the greatest asset on your side when trying to implement change. All colleagues have something to add. The people within the system know the most about the system and what needs improvement and how best to achieve it.”


Mercy Pic 2

Victoria Collins, Talent Acquisition Specialist told us that “I am a great believer in staff engagement as an integral tool for quality and improvement in the workplace… Today’s workplace is a tough environment and we must be mindful to take care of each other, Valuing Voices was a wonderful initiative that helped enable us to do just that.”

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Cork University Maternity Hospital


One of the first key initiatives set up by the Maternity Directorate is the CUMH Ideas Forum.  The newly formed Directorate in CUMH wanted to take time to focus on what’s going well and how best to work together to make changes to improve the experiences of staff members and those who use CUMH services. 

Supported by the Quality Improvement Division and led by Dr Nóirín Russell, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, the first ideas forum was set up to look at ideas that could improve workflow, use of space and patient care on the CUMH ground floor.

This first forum in January 2018 saw a great turnout from multidisciplinary staff in CUMH. Staff identified ‘people’ and ‘patients’ as the most positive things about working there. Colleagues were described as ‘dedicated’, ‘great’, ‘amazing’, ‘hard-working’, ‘wonderful’ and ‘supportive’ to mention a few.  When asked what CUMH do well, ‘patient care’ and ‘teamwork’ came through strong, especially in a crisis. 

Everyone has been inspired by the enthusiasm and engagement to date. The plan for the next stage, the action planning session to put ideas into practice to progress the top ideas that staff selected to work on, with the agreement of the Maternity Directorate.  These are as follows, and many more not listed here are already in progress in other forums:

"Working in maternity and gynaecology services is interesting, exciting and sometimes incredibly challenging. The last few years have been particularly difficult for our service locally and nationally. I became interested in the principles of staff engagement and front line ownership because I kept on hearing brilliant suggestions for change from staff working on the front line here at CUMH who felt that no-one was listening. The Ideas Forum was a giant listening experience and I look forward to the action planning session on September 6th where we will start working on some of these great ideas". Dr Nóirín Russell, Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, CUMH       

"The Maternity Directorate aims to roll out further Ideas Forums in all Maternity Units in due course.  Taking the time to attend is very worthwhile.  All ideas will be reviewed by the Directorate and feedback will be made available about whether an idea will/ will not be implemented in this or other forums.  Staff will be supported to participate in working groups to implement change. A huge thanks to the CUMH Ideas Forum team, led by Dr Nóirín Russell and the Quality Improvement Division, for their ongoing work:  Juanita Guidera, Katie Bourke, Lorraine O’Connor, Claire Everard, Fidelma Harrington, Úna Cahill, Claire McCarthy and Donna Burtchaell"  Prof John R. Higgins, Clinical Director Maternity Services

"Staff are engaged when they feel valued, are emotionally connected, fully involved, enthusiastic and committed to providing a good service... when each person knows that what they do and say matters and makes a difference". National Staff Engagement Forum 2016